Girls & Games: getting the issues straight

Girls & GamesPicture this: a girl is fanatically playing a game, moving her fingers over the controller’s buttons with absolute concentration. As she beats down the last enemy, a loud “yes!” escapes her mouth.

This isn’t something you would ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over anymore. Yes, men no longer stop in their tracks to stare at a woman playing a game (well, unless she’s hot). But have female gamers really been accepted? What is the state of women working in the games industry? And what do we think about all those half-naked game characters?

The perfect game for women doesn’t exist

According to an Entertainment Software Association (ESA) report, forty-three percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (28 percent) than boys from ages 6 to 17 (21 percent). The average gamer’s age is 35. But do girls play anything other than MMOs and so-called “girly games”?

Of course we do.

Statistically speaking, we’ve been accepted. But has the industry accepted us? Yes they have. As women. And the problem lies right there. Categorising all women together inevitably leads to the industry treating us as a big, unified mass. They think we don’t like the same games that men do. They think we find God of War offensive, we don’t like tuning our car in Need for Speed, and we would surely never touch Alien versus Predator, or play CoD online. Of course, there are women that would in fact never play these kinds of games. But women as a target demographic are just as diverse as men are.

Sheri Graner Ray

“Someone asked me once, how do you market for women?” Sheri Graner Ray told me during an interview. “And my answer was: you don’t market for women. Anytime in any game I’ve ever worked on, we know what our audience has played last. We know what they’re likely to play next. We know how long they played it, where they bought it, how much they paid for it, how much schooling they have, what part of the country they live in […] We know all this information about them and we know exactly what their needs are and how we’re going to meet them. Why don’t we do that kind of demographic work with women? If you’re going to make a game for women, go out and target your demographic. You can’t be for all women. You gotta know your target group. ‘Women’ is not a target.”

The Wii: not so “ weeee” to me

Since the coming of the Wii and Nintendo DS, the gaming audience has grown. Not only do women play more often, but gaming has become an activity for the entire family. Gaming is becoming more and more accessible because of the high variety of consoles and gaming styles that appeal to a diverse audience. So what kind of games do women like, according to what’s supplied for us?

A couple of years ago, Nintendo had a special way to expand their console’s reach to women: Wii Fit. Nintendo’s strategy specifically meant to pull in more women, was to create stereotypical and shallow games. The first thought Nintendo had that made them think of women, was fitness.

"Dream Skincare" for the DS. Very... pink.

Another game made especially for women is described in “Nintendo DS game Helps Women Maximize Skin Care. The ‘ Dream Skincare’ game described here is a game where you, yes, take care of your skin. Or take a look at some Japanese games designed especially for women.

What you quickly notice is that apparently, all women care about is cooking, beauty, and animals. The biggest mistake game developers can make, is to think that the way to reach a female audience, is to make a game with a “compelling” narrative, like in “Dream Skincare” for the DS:

Hormonal balance is key for avoiding wrinkles and age spots, and body temperature and weight fluctuations are good indicators for any hormone swings.”

Sure, there are some women who find this interesting. Like hormonally unbalanced women. But when developers create a game aimed at the female demographic, they insist on making a game about fashion, beauty, or one of the other painfully obvious and sexists subjects. And that just shows that they still don’t get it.

We like nudes

So there has always been this one big issue. Scarcely dressed women in games. Honestly, I don’t know how female warriors in WoW can actually be protected by triangles of steel covering their ‘essentials’. I don’t know how their boobs can be so big and their waists so small without the whole universe exploding. It’s not very realistic.

But then again, are games meant to be realistic? No. Games are supposed to allow you to be anyone you want to be. And believe it or not, some people want to be a thin, big-breasted female. It’s also possible to customise your character to be fat, but obviously there are just less people who prefer that.

And be honest, girls. When you customise your male character, do you give him a big fat belly, a pathetic little moustache and a forehead that’s way too big?

No, you make him big and good-looking. Muscles protruding from his clothes. We like to look at beautiful things. And it just so happens that mankind’s vision of beauty isn’t really all that original or diverse.

But don’t go too far. At the point where over-sexualising becomes normal, we need to take a step back. Boobs with a diameter of half a meter is really pushing it too far. Women with normal boobs are sexy too. Plus, I bet you your big-breasted WoW-character could never make you as happy as a real woman could. Don’t disrespect that woman.

Nakedness in practice

Let’s just turn the table around for once to make you guys realise how a lot of women feel about this issue.

Elf on the Cover

Elf on the Cover!

Imagine the image above to be on the cover of a game. Nothing shocking, right? Those kinds of elves aren’t really rare in WoW. The mostly male audience that was confronted with this image (during a Sex in Videogames presentation by Graner Ray), did not find imagining the elf on a game cover shocking either. Then, they were shown the following image for them to imagine on a game cover:

Warrior on the Cover?

Suddenly silent as a countryside’s night, the audience was fidgeting with their clothes and staring at their shoes in quiet embarrassment.

The male reaction to the male equivalent of a female half-naked character was, to me, nothing short of hilarious. A half-naked woman on the cover was okay to them (even the more realistic looking ones), but looking at a picture of a half-naked man? That just wasn’t cool to them. The interesting and only difference between the two pictures? The gender.

If this was on the cover of WoW, how many copies of it do you think it would sell to guys? So as uncomfortable as you [the guy] are, that uncomfortable I am when I see this with a woman. And then they go ‘oooooh’. Cause what’s the difference between the pictures? There is no difference.” (Sheri Graner Ray)

So, are we female gamers, or are we gamers?

So what can we conclude from this?

While at first women were mainly concerned with the representation of women in video games (always scarcely dressed) and not being accepted as gamers, a whole new problem has arisen.

Although the number of female players has grown since the Wii and DS (now that gaming is more accessible), the games industry has become more sexist, just in a different way. Sexism now takes place in the treatment of women as one target group. The games that are designed specifically for women are more sexist and superficial than the scarcely dressed women that make their appearance in games. Denying our diversity and labelling us all as cooking, beauty and fashion fans is a lot more insulting than a half-naked elf.

You could argue that campaigns aimed at women work. Wii Fit sells. This is simply because there are always women who indeed feel attracted to games about fashion, beauty and horses. But seeing these women as a representation for all women is short-sighted and, frankly, losing companies money. Because there is a way bigger group of women out there that do not feel any pull to buy those games, and feel pushed away by it. There is a way bigger female audience out there, dear developers, and you can go get them. Just realise that our gaming behaviour differs per individual, just as it does for men.

Picard agrees.

We can play, but not create

Not a lot of women work in the games industry, we know that. And those that do mostly occupy PR or marketing positions. There are a lot less female producers, programmers and artists. We can be gamers, but can we be creators?

I’ve been told: ‘you can’t make real games’. I’ve been told, ‘We have a fraternity here and we don’t want to upset the comradery. I’m sure you understand’. That happened a year ago October.” (Graner Ray)

Of course this doesn’t happen to all women. Some of them are lucky. But I knew exactly what she was talking about during my enlightening interview with her. I know what the sceptical looks on men’s faces are about, and I know why it takes me so much longer to convince someone of the fact that I know what I’m doing, and I’m not just a bimbo. I experience every time that it is harder for me to win a man’s respect than it would be for another man. I see them high-fiving, “what’s up dude”-ing, and sticking to their group of ‘just us guys’. And whenever a women tries to enter the group, they often just try to hit on her. The games industry is their own little club, the one they’ve wanted to have since they were children. It’s an industry where they are at the top, where they are the experts, the heroes. There have hardly been any women at their level, and the ones that are or that have the potential, are scared off by scepticism and unfair treatment.

When women in the industry start off,” Sheri Graner Ray said with a sigh. “They’re like, ‘no I don’t see any of that! The guys all treat me like their little sister, I’m just one of the guys!’ and I think: hang on honey, it’ll change in a few years. About three of four years down the road, they start to see all the guys around them being promoted and they’re not, and suddenly they start going: ‘heeeey!’. And then they stop telling you where the design meetings are like they did me, and you start realizing that there’s something wrong. Then the women get mad and think we should do something about it. Unfortunately most of them just tuck their heads in the sand. And it still doesn’t change.”

And it should change. Women can broaden the industry because they think differently from men. Because they have another perspective to offer, other methods and ideas that can enrich games in a way we might not realise. But women should realise that they need to have the balls to withstand the scepticism and fight it before it will go away.

I would love to walk into a room once and not have that same old look shot at me, saying: “What’s she doing here?”.

Because men can say what they want about accepting women into the industry as equals, and some of them may actually be right; but we’re just not feeling it. Yet.

As a last note, from a female gamer to other female gamers: stop playing in on the fact that you’re a woman when it comes to games. If we ever want the ‘female’ in front of the ‘gamer’ to be dropped, we have to stop putting our focus on our gender. Saying “you lost to a girl” is very entertaining, I must admit, but it doesn’t get you gamer status. Boast about your skills, not your boobs.

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Written by Snezana N

She destroyed her first PC (running Windows 3.11) at the age of 11 and since then has been obsessed with everything about games and technology. Founder of Game Thingie (gamethingie.com), she's currently a game journalist to learn about the industry and get into game development after attaining her MscBA. She also cannot stop talking about how awesome Yakuza 3 was.

38 comments

  1. Pidgeridoo /

    Not all games directed at girls contain beauty or fashion and it is ridiculous to generalise in such a way! I can think of plenty of games that girls LOVE that contain not an ounce of cooking in them and if they do it’s a side game in no way related to the actual story! This article is far too feminist as any girl gamer I know including myself don’t care who the target audience of a game is if we like it we play it! Naked girl or no naked girl!

    • The point is that the industry categorises those things as games for girls. I’m saying that girls are as diverse as men. I’m stating 1. That yes, there are girls that like cooking games, but that 2. there are also a lot of girls that like games that don’t have anything to do with cooking.

      This article is hardly feminist. I just think the industry should change it’s attitude toward what a girl game is to try and involve more women. And I know that the industry does not 100% treat women as diversely as they do men (plenty of conversations with women working in the industry).

      Plus, I doubt telling women to shut up about being a woman is feminist. And if you read correctly, I said that I don’t care if there are naked girls in the game. I simply mentioned that some people DO care, after stating that I don’t.

  2. Pidgeridoo /

    How can say the article isn’t feminist? Your complaining that women are hard done by in the gaming industry when they clearly aren’t??? There are games directed at the typical girly girl and then there is games like Halo that I know for a fact both girls and boys enjoy? Women have as much choice as men to play whatever game they choose and I actually find it insulting that you would insinuate that girls have little choice over what they play!

    • I say it because I wrote it and know that it isn’t, or at least not meant to be. It’s meant to give an account of several sides.
      “But do girls play anything other than MMOs and so-called “girly games”? Of course we do.”

      I’m not saying girls have little choice. I’m saying that we’re being treated like we’re an entirely seperate category, while we are just as diverse as men. Meaning some like cooking games, some like action games, some like something completely different or a combination. I’m not complaining about anything, I’m saying that when it comes to MARKETING for women, they’re going about it the wrong way.

      I would never insinuate that girls have little choice over what they play. Heck, I play the weirdest combination of games, from God of War to Cooking Momma. But yes, I am annoyed by the fact that whenever I enter the actual games industry (when it comes to business) I am only expected to like fashion games.

      I never, ever ever said or would say that girls and boys can’t enjoy the same things. My point is the complete opposite. As a matter of fact, I want even more girls to play games and wish my girlfriends would play Counterstrike with me. My conclusion is that women are accepted as GAMERS, but not yet as creators. And that I know not only from my personal experience, but also from that of female developers.

      I’m more concerned with things like this:


      “I’ve been told: ‘you can’t make real games’. I’ve been told, ‘We have a fraternity here and we don’t want to upset the comradery. I’m sure you understand’. That happened a year ago October.” (Graner Ray)

      Of course this doesn’t happen to all women. ”

      I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. This article really isn’t feminists, I don’t like feminists because they always go too far. Read my last paragraphs: “Boast about your skills, not your boobs!”

      If you really, really still disagree with me, you can e-mail me at snezana@nedeski.nl, ’cause I’m afraid that elseway there will be only comments from you and me under this post ;-)

  3. Michael J /

    It’s interesting reading your experience of the games industry as female. I was reading the Economist yesterday, where the cover story was about how women now make up 50% of the general workforce and have been hit far less by the recession than young males. Yet it would seem that the gaming industry figures would be extremely biased in favour of men (probably young men also).

    However it’s hard to attribute that entirely down to the sort of sexism cliques that exist within the industry. If you look in the classrooms of almost any IT courses of any kind, be it programming, web design, networking etc, the male to female ratio is almost 10:1 (from my experience).Perhaps there’s some sort of stigma attached to women going in to gaming or programming (Ie – nerdism), meaning that many men within the industry have little previous exposure to women with serious knowledge or a passion for gaming.

    It’s probably something that will change as the industry grows up and expands it’s borders. A decade ago none of the big companies really bothered making games that appealed to anyone beyond their target audience of young males. Now they’re taking baby steps to appeal to a broader female market as well as older people.

    Just one final point, the 43% figure for female gamers is one thing, but if you look around gaming websites, in the commenters section and find out whose actually reading them, the figure would be a fraction of that. Female gamers seem to be less vocal through these sorts of channels, I don’t have an explanation for that, I wondered if you did (Is it because we put terrible jokes in our articles?)

  4. steven g /

    It is clear that hardcore games do not offer a fair and representative image of females. However, to be honest, the don’t of men either. That image you include of a male in his tight undies is actually not that far from how many men look in games. Just think of Barbarian! Additionally I would suggest that most of the male’s reaction you report was not due to them feeling uncomfortable about a man being sexualised, but much more related to their emotions and feelings about expressing feelings about the male body with other men in public.

    The point is, most characters are highly sexualised, strong and ‘sexy’ unless you are playing Wii Sports and Animal Crossing. The issue perhaps, is that we should have a wider range of characters, but that would require a wider and deeper range of narratives to support those characters. You are not going to put individuals looking like me (no offence to myself) or the average girl in a game about one person taking on the world in combat. It just wouldn’t wash!

    Additionally, as games a visual medium they do entice the designer to put good looking people in them, so they are easy on the eyes. This is exactly the same as TV and films, which are much maturer mediums.

    Additionally there probably IS a difference between the type of games MOST females like and MOST men like. For sure there are a group of female gamers that LOVE Modern Warfare and Tekken, and Im not suggesting its a small group either. However the majority probably do prefer Wii Sports, social games and whatnot. There is nothing sexist in this, far from it. It is just a case of respecting that Women do sometimes have a different (and perhaps better) take on things and hence wish to be entertained in a different way.

    I like the idea of character/avatar design and feel it should become more widespread, as in Mass Effect. This would end much of this debate, but ultimately what will truly end it is more women becoming game characters and being involved in development.

  5. Syd B /

    Could I just say that I don’t give a damn what my character looks like and haven’t since the day I first started playing games.

    Can I also say that the majority of people I know who like playing Wii sports, men and women, do not usually play videogames. However, all the women I know who do like playing videogames and have been playing with me for over 15 years, are massive fans of beat ‘em ups, racers and FPS games. What does this mean? I have no idea. All I know is that my wife is the superior Street Fighter in our house…

  6. Rikard /

    It’s quite telling that an article like this can still poke people in the chest so much. The fact that has to be labelled as a feminist article is equally interesting, as to me this sounds much less like a feminist manifesto and much more like a call for common sense.

    It’s a brilliant piece, one of the better I’ve read on the subject, because it points out what I’ve always felt about the issue: “Denying our diversity and labelling us all as cooking, beauty and fashion fans is a lot more insulting than a half-naked elf.” which I think is absolutely spot on.

    At the end of the day, gaming has always been a boy’s club, which has spilled out of the developers and their office and onto the fan base. We look at male developers presenting games for a male demographic featuring male characters to an audience of male journalists. Thanks to the internet it’s given ladies more room to voice themselves, even if that is still just a small fraction of the entire market, but it’s getting there very slowly.

  7. Larry Madison /

    This article isn’t feminist, it’s apologist. Personally, I think the video game industry’s portrayal of women is ridiculous and disappointing. While male characters are portrayed in wide diversity (think Mario vs. Dhalsim vs. Capt. Falcon), female characters are virtually homogenous – thin, white (or asian), busty, scantily clad, and often in need of saving. The industry’s misguided attempts to market to women are equally ridiculous. Creating interesting and diverse female characters would be a good start, not only for making games more appealing to women, but for making games more appealing in general.

  8. Robert L. /

    Great article. I would have to say though that it probably is “feminist,” even if you didn’t intend it to be. What’s really surprising about this whole discussion is how “feminist” seems to be interpreted as a pejorative title, when it’s not meant to be. Feminism is simply the act of “advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” That hardly sounds like a bad thing to me. Funny how we’ve come to label feminism as a radical movement, rather than a “common sense” movement (to borrow from Rikard).

    I think you’re right in pointing out the types of games targeted toward the “female audience,” but its a phenomenon hardly restricted to the video game industry. Just look at children’s toys: How many plastic vacuums and mock kitchens have you seen advertised for boys? How many plastic trucks and action figures for girls? The trend you’re seeing in video games is a reflection of our greater social system: The attribution of strength and violence to men, and the attribution of domesticity to women.

    I will concede that video games to offer a unique view into the issue, however, and I think it’s mostly because the industry is new(ish). Everything is just a bit more raw. We’ve grown used to commercials that sell specific products to men and women, whereas the idea of an entire cooking game targeting women is new to us. I think it’s great, to be honest. Hopefully the issue here is taken as a symptom of the greater problem, a problem that a lot of people try to pretend doesn’t exist: Just take the “radical” connotation of the word feminism; by labeling it as ridiculous and over-the-top, the movement is effectively neutralized, leading persons to assume the issue is resolved.

    It’s most certainly not resolved, as is clear by your article (more specifically, the interview with Ray). Sadly, I think it’s an issue that’s going to take time–and a lot of effort–to resolve. It’s going to take more women venturing into the industry (with the amount of women playing games, I think/hope this is inevitable). Then, with enough activism (dare I say feminism) we might see things turn around, become a little more equal. But these things take effort, from men and women alike. This article is definitely a step in the right direction.

  9. shawn /

    seriously i think there are a lot more hardcore female gamers out there then men like to believe like one example my sister plays cod and team fortress 2 like every day and shes logged so many hours on the MAG beta even more than i have and shes 12

  10. Wowzer /

    This article is sooooo feminist. And personally, I think there is no such think as a women gamer. Yes, you may play some casual games like Wii sports (or any other Wii title) and maybe a certain driving game or mmmo but not anything hardcore. So don’t you dare say you are accepted as a gamer. Women should stay in the kitchen. I hate when I hear women say “Oh yeah I play video games; Mario Kart and Wii Sport”. The Wii is a disgrace to all hardcore gaming.

  11. i find that women in gaming is acceptable. but i’m not sure women gamers outpopulate guys ages 12-17. these sample surveys are never really accurate. and i wonder if they count women gamers as those that play yahoo games or other flash games around the web, because if they do, then i guess you can say they game, but if they are talking about non flash games, then i would really doubt that statistic

  12. another gamer girl topic/article seriously:/

    All I’ve ever seen are women always nagging (lol..nagging) about gamer girls not being accepted, stereotype and being bullied online.

    Just enjoy the game man:/

  13. Heather /

    This article talks about not stereotyping “women” then goes into a huge list of its own stereotypes. I would LOVE to have a plump female avatar but in most games that isn’t possible. The most that I could do is increase my breasts and possible make the hip to waist ratio even larger which is far from creating plumpness.

    I work in the game industry. I AM a gamer and I find this article a lot more offensive then a half naked night elf.

  14. Thank you for saying what many people won’t say.
    I completely agree with everything you mentioned in the article.
    It is absolutely ridiculous when I’m in a Halo match online or even MW2 and you have the girls who are all “Omg you just lost to a girl, suck it!” or “You’re just mad because you lost to a girl.” As a girl, I am highly offended that these so-called gamers are boasting about their gender along to the whole multiplayer world, as if people care. I play for the game, not to go into a match and brag about how I’m a girl and I’m gonna kick your ass. In fact, I make sure whatever gamertag I use does not imply that I am a girl, or avoid putting girl references in my bio because it is a lost cause. Play to show your skills and not to claim you’re the best just because you’re a girl. News flash: no one cares.

    Thanks for this amazing article btw.

  15. Can I suggest if you want to gauge the male response to a game cover with a half naked man you show them a game cover with a half naked man not a picture from playgirl.
    Show them barbarian or golden axe.
    Guys have no problem with that but how is a guy posing supposed to prove anything? You deliberately set things up to get the response you wanted by whatever means as if that then relates to the topic at hand. How about I show a topless woman sprawling over the bonet of a car and then when the female audience gets miffed by that I say how it shows women are jealous of attractive women on the cover of a fighting game?
    The woman on the Wow cover actually relates to the game. She’s wearing the game armour (what there is which is unparctical but is mearly cosmetic) has Sabretoothed tigers or whatever they are that are in the game.
    What game is that guy from? If he is from a game then fine but show the whole picture and make sure you told the audience what game he was from as well.

    Oh and good job of Categorising all men when you did that. I believe you are against that happening to women? Double stan…
    never mind.

  16. Rikard /

    Some points on these comments:

    I must have overslept the meeting when we decided that “feminist” was a negative term. This is a feminist article, but as Robert pointed out, why is that a bad thing? The reason people still “nag” on this is because this is still a very real issue. It’s easy for guys to whine about all the girls-in-gaming talk like it doesn’t concern us, but if we have any interest in being anything but a little boy’s club then this is an attitude that we need to overturn. And it’s not like it should be that hard either, just stop being so heteronormative and you’ve taken the first step.

    Some of you made a point that “most women” play mostly flash games or Wii Sports, something which I find hard to believe without any backing up apart from your gut feeling. There are a lot of people that enjoy casual or supercasual games like The Sims, Peggle, Cooking Mama or friggin’ Bubble Spinner. Here’s the news flash though; this too is a very diverse audience. Men, women, middle age, under age, teen age. And just because somebody is playing mostly casual games doesn’t really give anybody an excuse to write them out of the debate. It feels to me like a weird kind of fanboyism, except instead of being a misguided loyalty to a console or a game series, it’s aimed towards “hardcore” gaming, as if that phrase meant anything. Get over yourselves, we’re all doing the same stuff at the end of the day so there’s no reason to cordon ourselves into such defined groups. Not that that’ll stop anyone, but one can dream.

    • KrazyFace /

      OH YEAH! You win the “Said it best” award for this thread…

      …So far

  17. Elaine /

    this article is somewhat conflicting, i do not agree with the first half. there is nothing wrong with women being a target audience. there are some games created with specific gender or age group in mind (like dating sims, hobby related, educational), so women coming in as one of the audience is normal. as for CoD or God of War, there is no sign that they’re just games for males. either you’re being touchy, or you’re surrounded by idiots who make you feel left out.

    for the second part, i will have to agree. it is very hard for a woman to get into a gaming company, much less go up high in one. however, things are changing, slowly, but they are. hideo kojima’s team got 2 women there, i feel that’s great. perhaps it’s just all about opportunity and people around you.

    all being said, i am proud to be a lady gamer. sometimes, instead of thinking of the gender title as a disadvantage, why not use it as leverage?

  18. so… the video games industry is just like every other media industry out there! big effin surprise. And I want to know, what do you mean that video gaming is now more accessible than it used to be? What changed to make it more accessible? More accessible to whom? What does accessible even mean? Anyone can go buy a video game system or PC, so how has that changed?

    The irony of women being treated as a monolithic target market is that women needed exactly this kind of uniformity of identity to win the right to be treated equally (I’m speaking of the US specifically). If women were never a demographic on their own, which they themselves had to create, that fight for the right to vote, job equality, not be sexually harassed in the workplace, and everything else would have been way more difficult.

    This is still a relevant issue today, as women are still left behind in the workplace, especially as you climb the career ladder. If women want to get what they deserve, they have to show that it is because they are women that they are being treated unfairly.

    Yet when it comes to marketing, women don’t want to be lumped all in one group. This is contradictory, but understandable. The problem is that by defining themselves as women for the political and human rights issues, that identity bleeds over into all other areas of life, including business and marketing.

    What’s surprising is that women are by and large the majority of the workforce in today’s marketing/pr/advertising industries, yet they don’t seem to be doing much to change this phenomenon–why is that? Are they just bending over for their bosses? I’m sure it’s a complicated situation, where no individual has the power to make these decisions, but you’d think women working in those industries might be writing about it more online.

    (Note, however, that you don’t see game makers marketing their wares to other imaginary demographics–ethnic minorities, for example. There’s a whole genre of gangster lit, film and music, some of it (the lit. especially) targeted at young city-dwelling black Americans. Where is that in the video game industry? Why are there no games, other than a few terrible ones, targeting people of different religions? I guess women are a safe target audience, for some reason, maybe because they never threaten to blow you up.)

    So come on women, stand up for yourselves, just not too close together. Don’t put up with crap like http://www.us.playstation.com/girlzplaytoo/

  19. Oni-Samurai /

    The picture of the male depicts him ripping off his underwear and the pose is probably a sexy one which appeals to women and gay men. Whereas the female elf is wearing considerably more clothing (its not a two piece bikini) but is quite revealing. She’s also holding a weapon and comes across as a sexy, but strong character. Hardly a fair comparsion by any means, if the male character was depicted wearing ‘tribal fur’ underwear with ‘tribal fur’ boots AND a huge sword held aloft (think of schwarzeneggar in Conan) – now that is a character that is appealing to men and would work on the cover of WoW.

    I remember the cover of my Golden Axe game and in the centre was a conan-esque character in underwear & sword and in the background at half the size was the female in her two-piece bikini outfit but also carrying a sword, & oddly my sister was bothered by the depiction of the woman but said nothing whatsoever about disliking the mans appearance.

    In my work environment what I have experienced is women express/flaunt their sexuality in a professional environment to get what they want and have observed this behaviour time and again in various forms. I have no respect for these women, and only those women who do not use this behaviour genuinely deserve the respect of us males. Unless of course the males are behaving in the same way.

  20. half_empty80 /

    moar pics of near nekkid girlz plz

    (sorry)

    43% of gamers are female? Of all the gamers I know, only one or two are women. Perhaps there is an online divide? Maybe most female gamers play single player or local multiplayer only? This would make them less visual. Fact is that gaming is traditionally a male orientated past-time, for what every reason. This is slowly changing. There are no games aimed at men because most ARE aimed at men, apart from the ones deliberately aimed at women. I wonder if the female gamer statistics includes those that only play minesweeper/solitare type windows games or those games on facebook, rather than “proper” PC or console games?

    And yes that picture of the man is not comparable to the female one at all. Get a pic of Duke Nukem or a barbarian, as already stated.

    • What I have failed to mention (bad, bad me) is the difference between the portrayal of female and male characters (as read in the book ‘Gender Inclusive Game Design’). Women are often portrayed in certain ‘sexy positions’ (hips popped, hands on hips, ass out, boobs out, daring look, pouting lips) aka as if they are “ready for sex”. Male game characters look cool when they’re half naked, strong and brave. That’s the reason why I specifically picked a “sexy man”, because he is taking the same position as a lot of women portrayed in video games are. Maybe these women come closer to the naked guy:

      http://images.mmosite.com/photo/2009/02/10/csa3_a6S627ej5E2.jpg
      http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v135/MASTER-WARRIOR/FEMALE-VIDEO-GAME-CHARACTERS-ARTWORK-COLLECTIONS-1/SUDEKI-FEMALE-CHARACTERS-ARTWORK-COLLECTIONS-NO-1/BUKIfromSUDEKI_OfficialArtWork1.jpg

      Take a good look at the positions, and features like attitude and lips.

      But once again, I put this in to try and give an accurate portrayal of how some women (a lot, actually) feel about the issue.

      @ Everybody else. Thanks for the comments (even the negative ones ;) ). It is a very complicated issue which has a lot of different sides and opinions, and all of them matter.

      • If women didn’t pose like that in real life it wouldn’t translate into other areas like games.
        For example when a younger women wants a favour the way she stands changes, the puupy dog eyes come out and the playing with the hair, hands on hips etc as she tries to use her sexuality to flirt her way to what she wants.
        It’s a bit insulting that she thinks I can be so easily swayed and has such little respect for men.
        Obviously not every young woman does this but enough that it’s not a rare occurance.
        That’s one example but the female body is different to the male body so the angles are different as well. The way they stand.
        This is a reflection of real life and you can’t blame men for that.
        Bayonetta though takes it to annoying extremes. Just looking at her and watching her just smacks of desperation from the devs.

        Another atrgument you could say is that women don’t say what they find sexy but men do so you don’t see male characters in provocative poses. Well apart from Japan. If a guy tries to act sexy women are more likely to be critical then go with it the way a man would.
        Also how is the guy from dead space supposed to pose in a sexy manner wearing that armour. Another poor choice (or deliberate) of a picture of a man for your argument.

        • Rikard /

          Unless this is an ironic joke (you can never tell, can you?), this takes the cake as the most numb-skulled comment I’ve read for a while. From the sounds of it you’ve gathered all your information on female behaviour from Scrubs, as it’s not something I can claim to have noticed more than as a “rare occurrence”.

          I think the obvious reason why there aren’t as many male characters in provocative and sexualised poses and clothes are simply because it’s men that design them 29 times out of 30. In most cases it’s probably not a concious decision to be sexist, but a heterosexual male designer will create something he – and what he perceives the game’s audience to be – wants to see; sexy women. He’s not going to sit and tirelessly render bulges or sweat-dripping chests because that probably won’t be what him and the game are aiming for. It’s just one more symptom of how patriarchal the industry is, which is what I’m suspecting this article’s point was in the first place.

          • Exactly. The designers are copying what they see in real life and what they want to see in their games.
            It’s not as if they are making it up out of nowhere and I doubt the are doing it to deliberately hold women back or make them feel insecure.

            If you haven’t seen women change their behaviour around men and becoming more sexual to get what they want I guess no woman wants anything from you. I’m not saying willing to sleep with him but flirty to get her way.

            And I don’t watch scrubs.

      • Oni-Samurai /

        “Women are often portrayed in certain ’sexy positions’ (hips popped, hands on hips, ass out, boobs out, daring look, pouting lips) aka as if they are “ready for sex”. Male game characters look cool when they’re half naked, strong and brave. ”

        The woman in the 2nd picture actually gets me aroused because of the position she’s in, but I still see her as a cool, bad-ass, semi-naked female, the 3rd picture is kind of funny as she looks like shes scratching her knee and they both still hold weapons.
        Also Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie & the VG character); is very sexy in her appearance but I also like the fact she is a strong, brave & independant. She is the female equivalent of Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, whom a lot of women have liked both his physical appearance as well as the general nature of his character.

        These pictures show women with perfect figures and its not so much the women are “ready for sex” but they are sending out artificial sex signals (by being provacatively dressed & posed) and a lot of men who see the picture will get aroused and want to have sex. This is a natural chemical reaction that occurs in mens minds.

        A hypothetical scientific scenario just to give you an something to think about; In neanderthal times when people were more animalistic in nature, when a woman wanted to attract a mate one of the things she would do is pump blood into areas of her face – the cheeks and lips would become redder and fuller.
        In todays society when a woman wears make-up, coloured lipstick, blush(?) on her cheeks – and a man sees this, she is in fact sending out artificial sex signals. The natural way is when she intentionally fancies someone and without wearing make-up does the blood-pump thing.

        How men affect women, I don’t really know as only a woman can truly answer this question. But I’ve been told women like big arms, tight abs & buns – a strong male is what appeals to a lot of females. So the “Conan” depiction of a man is fair and the more I look at that picture of the ‘underwear-ripping guy’ the more I feel he (is gay &) would appeal to gay men. If I was to do a sexy pose it’d be in boxers, fists slightly clenched, biceps and triceps flexed and looking straight ahead with either a small cheeky grin or bad boy moody look.

        No offence or disrespect intended to anyone or group, just SMO.

  21. Jefferson /

    Very interesting reading.

    If you really feel that the games targeting females are inappropriate, I think it would be a good idea for a group of women to form a game development company, to promote their idea of what a game should be. It could be a female owned company with female programmers, developers, artists, etc.; all the assets needed to create a game could be female oriented/led. You could have your own company of nothing but women working together and thus eliminate the problems in the workplace previously mentioned.

    Instead of griping about a situation, do something about it. Believe in yourself and your vision or goal, and you can acheive anything as long as you’re willing to work for it.

    • KrazyFace /

      Great idea there, but I think the response to any game made purely by women would become a giant sitting-duck-target for the rest of the industry/fanbois or whoever to chuck insults at. Much like what would happen if a “gay men only” game company started, you’d be asking for problems from the get-go.

      Much like everything that frustrates us in our societys, all we need to do is wait for the next generation to take over our jobs with a more sex/race/world-friendly attitude. This will all pass in time, unfortunatley for Snezana here, time on these matters moves very slowly.

      • Don’t worry about me, I can take it :-P

        And yes, a women-only company would probably be over-doing it. We’d be doing the same thing, just the other way around. Making a “Talent and passion only” company would be better, where gender wouldn’t matter, but talent, attitude and passion for the work does.

        • Oni-Samurai /

          Go work for Naughty Dog! Amy Hennigs one of the top..dogs there and there are a few women on the development team to from what I’ve seen on Uncharted 2’s ‘behind-the-scenes’

  22. A Girl gamers opinion: (sorry its long)

    Great article and excellent site by the way

    you are completely right that games like wii fit and horses on the ds and things are far more insulting to women who play games than half naked characters, I am californian and I remember the debate when final fantasy X-2 (which is one of may favourite games by the way) came out about the characters outfits and I couldnt figure it out because I dress like that all the time and looking around the public here at least, there are many others that do too, even the wow charcter above is similar to how one might dress when going to the beach, agreed its a tad revealing but not shocking at all, I’ve seen (and probably worn) worse.

    By comparison having mindless games like the wii fit, nintendogs etc etc, ad nauseum is far more insulting and i’m glad you called them shallow on here because that is exactly what they are, they are mindless, degrading and a waste of time. I would much rather play tomb raider, final fantasy, soul reaver, Demons souls or Bayonetta than groom my horse on the ds or keep fit on the wii (though i must admit wii cheer looks mildly interesting but I refuse to buy the system because it is so stereotypical for girls to own) of the other girls in my cheer squad I know that play games none play those games either, one is a massive grand theft auto fan while another is unbeatable at any tekken game

    also we are all very “girly” girls, we love beauty and fashion, but we don’t want to play games about them!!!!!!, the sooner developers figure this out the better.

    now I am not what many would consider a “hardcore” gamer, I only buy around 5 new games a year and gaming would only just make it into my top 5 hobbies. In saying that I own all the sony consoles (ps1,2,3 and psp, I had a nintendo ds lite but it broke down outside of warranty) and have a platinum trophy on demons souls and have beaten Yiazmat in final fantasy 12. If I like a game I play it till the end. Though I have to use a male alias on line due to previous stalking issues.

    as an aside I would love an avatar that looked like me, I am pretty,blonde & small waisted with the chest of pamela anderson and a rear as sahpely as Kim Kardashian. Its not very modest to say I know but you dont spend as much as I have at the plastic surgeons to be modest.

    as for female developers that story is very sad, it would appear that Amy Hennig is the champion of females in game development at the moment, I have eternal respect for her genius in the soul reaver series but uncharted is a horror, its my second least favorite series of all time after the halo series (though the type of guys i date (I only date footballers but my percentage hit rate is excellent ;-)) always seem to adore both series’ sheer violence and mindlessness, I guess this is the equivilent of Ds beauty parlor for males) its like maing donnie darko then going to making a rambo/third rate indiana jones crossover, But I will always stick by her as a shining example of what can be done, there is story written by a western developer that can hold a candle to soul reaver. Hennig is top of the tree.

  23. sorry I meant no other story written by a western developer, my bad

  24. As someone who loves a huge variety of games, I always feel slightly aggrieved at some of the comments by people about females who play casual games. I don’t think that you can assume that someone who plays Wii Fit and girly games or casual games will only ever play that – and even if they do, so what? Personally I’ve played all manner of games from Wii Fit to Fable, from Darksiders to Hospital Hysteria. I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer or a casual gamer. I do, however, consider myself a female gamer because whilst I wholeheartedly believe that a huge number of women play games and many of those women are just as into RPG, FPS, strategy, action and so on as men, I also think that what men and women take away from a video game is not necessarily the same. Equality isn’t about being the same – it’s surely about embracing the differences?

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